25 Most Common Tourist Scams in Spain

Safety at Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Malaga, Cordoba, Granada, Seville, Valencia, Zaragoza, Gran Canaria, Ibiza, Mallorca, Tenerife, Costa Blanca, Costa Brava, Costa del Sol, Galicia, La Rioja
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Plaza Espana, Seville

Plaza Espana, Seville


With superb food, world-famous folklore, impressive monuments, magnificent churches, medieval towns, beautiful beaches, colourful festivals and many more, what’s not to like about Spain?

However, Spain is also home to the pickpocket capital of Europe that is Barcelona.

The problem here is that any theft involving a value of less than €400 is treated as a misdemeanour with a paltry €50 fine.

Within hours of being caught, the thief will be back onto the streets.

However, some preparatory work and staying alert will keep you safe and sound. So read on to learn how to protect yourself here!




1. Street pickpockets


How it works:

Hotspots include (non-exhaustive):

  • Madrid:
    • Plazas / Squares / Streets: Plaza de Santa Ana, Puerta del Sol, Gran Vía, Paseo del Prado
    • Markets: El Rastro, Mercado de San Miguel
    • Attractions: Prado museum, Palacio Real
  • Barcelona:
    • Plazas / Squares / Streets: La Rambla, Plaza de Catalunya, Barrio Gotico, El Raval, Carrer Montcada, Carrer de la Princesa, Mercat Santa Caterina
    • Markets: La Boqueria
    • Attractions: Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell

These thieves work in gangshanging around to spot anyone carrying expensive or neglected phones / valuables / bag and where it is stored.

Once they mark a target, they will surround you and work like this:

  • One keeps a lookout and blocks passer-bys from seeing the scene.
  • Another pushesdistracts the target (e.g. drop something and ask you).
  • A third steals your valuable / slashes your bag and then passes it on.
  • The last hides the loot under a jacket / items and then escapes with it.

Watch out for child pickpockets as well.


What to do:

Stay alert and watch out for suspicious characters, though that is easier said than done.

The best solution is still, to not make yourself look like a target. 

Make it impossible for thieves to steal from you:

  • Carry a photocopy of your passport instead of the actual one.
  • Keep your wallet in the front pocket.
  • Conceal small valuables in a money belt / hidden pouch
  • Store large valuables in a slash-resistant and lockable anti-theft bag.
  • Leave most valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe, secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – our review) which covers loss of valuables.


2. Snatch thefts


How it works:

Generally, there are two versions of snatch thefts – strike and run, or distract and grab, in many possible contexts:

  • Bikes / mopeds riding past, with a pillion rider doing the snatch.
  • Snatching from behind you, then running into a getaway car to escape.
  • At restaurants, stealing unattended bags / valuables on the chair or table.
  • Hotels airports, where distracted / tired tourists carry all their valuables out.
  • The beach where tourists are relaxed, or when they head to the water.
  • Nightclubs, where “prostitutes” pretend to proposition tourists by grabbing them but are really trying to steal your valuables.
  • Seats beside a train’s doors where a thief gets out just before the doors close.
  • Stealing of bags on overnight trains / buses.
  • Valuables snatched through a car / bus window.
  • Thefts around ATMs.


What to do:

When seated / not moving:

While out walking / on transport:

  • Use a cross body anti-theft bag facing away from the road / windows of your vehicle.
  • Avoid carrying valuables in your hands when walking by the road or when beside a vehicle window / train door.

Other protection measures:

  • Leave valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – our review) which covers loss of valuables.


3. The dancing cartoon cutout scam


How it works:

You might have noticed street sellers selling cartoon cutouts that dance / jump to music. They are actually worthless colour paper cutouts with string legs.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not due to the use of magnetic forcefield. Rather, it is simply the use of transparent wire attached to a wheel that make the cutouts dance.

Also, the street seller will pretend not to understand English and not answer any of your questions unless you are asking for the price.

Do check out the video above to see how it works.


What to do:

Avoid buying.


4. Fake tickets


How it works:

Thankfully, this actually does not happen that frequently, like in some other countries.

However, there have been reports of fake tickets, especially for highly popular events.

These are actually perpetrated by organized gangs, which then get street touts to peddle these fake tickets (high quality prints with stolen QR codes).

Past instances include:

  • The “El Clasico” football match between Barcelona and Real Madrid at Camp Nou (thousands of fakes were sold).
  • The Tomatina Festival in Valencia.


What to do:

Do not buy from streets touts or unofficial sellers.

Only buy a ticket through these sources:

  • Direct from company / official counters.
  • Licensed retailers.
  • Your hotel / hostel if such a service is provided.
  • Day tour platforms like GetYourGuide (best in Europe) – bestselling tickets include:




5. Flower pin scam

Street of Barcelona

Street of Barcelona


How it works:

A woman pins a flower on you and demands money. You might think fine, since it is just one euro.

But when you open up your wallet, your cash or wallet might just be snatched.


What to do:

Decline and give the pin back.


6. Trilero street game scam


How it works:

Common around Europe (UK, Germany, Hungary), this is also known as the pea game / shell game, where you have to find a ball / pea / something under one of three cups.

Guess correctly and you double your money.

As you watch, it is painfully obvious which cup the ball is in and you see others winning effortlessly. You now join, but then you lose.

This is because before the last move of the cups, the scammer will slightly expose the cup which has the ball, tempting you to choose that cup.

However, through sleight of hand, he has actually taken the ball out. When he opens another cup which you have not chosen, he will slip the ball in there.

Also, if you are not careful, you can be targeted by the onlookers who pickpocket you while simply watching.

All of them are part of the same gang. One sets the game up, one plays the game and win to tempt others to join, three to five act as onlookers, and one looks out for the police.


What to do:

Stay away, you will never win.


7. Rosemary plant gift scam


How it works:

This scam is perpetrated by gypsy women who go around giving out small rosemary plants.

Should you take it, they will grab your palm while receiving it and pretend to read it like a fortune teller.

Next moment, either your valuables are gone, or they would demand money from you if they did not manage to steal from you.


What to do:

Note that besides rosemary plants, anything can be used. So do not engage these scammers.


8. Cheap electronics trap

Amadores Canary Islands beach

Amadores Canary Islands beach


How it works:

This trap is a common scam pulled off by rogue shop operators in the Canary Islands.

You may encounter these shops near Amadores, which advertise electronics (e.g. iPad) at prices too cheap to be true.

Should you go in and try to purchase the iPad, the salesman will ask you to fill in many personal particulars. He will also take a photo of you as a method of demonstrating that the iPad works.

If alarm bells have not been ringing in your head right now, they should.

Next, after you have made payment, comes the climax.

The salesman will refuse to hand the device over, insisting that they can only pass it to you 24 hours prior to your departure for home.

This is due to “airport tax reasons” and time needed to help you install the necessary software.

If you haven’t realize by now, the cheap product is simply a Trojan horse to get you to hand over your personal particulars and credit card information.


What to do:

If something is too good to be true, it is.

Should you wish to buy, only buy from legitimate, licensed shops – find from online research or by asking your hotel / hostel staff.

Else, you can also consider a shopping tour – GetYourGuide, best day tours platform in Europe – has some popular ones:




9. Football scam

Two boys playing soccer on the streets of Barcelona

Two boys playing soccer on the streets of Barcelona


How it works:

You might be approached by a few strangers who try to start a football game along the streets.

As Spain is famous for its football, you think it’s a normal thing to do. It may be fun, but your valuables will be stolen while you are playing.

Another variation is these scammers playing by themselves. When you walk pass, they dribble up to you and perform some tricks.

While you are distracted, that’s when they steal from you.


What to do:

Stay away from this set up.

Ideally, use a money belt or hidden pouch and an anti-theft bag to conceal your valuables securely.


10. Restaurant scam

Spain paella

Cooking paella in Spain


How it works:

Avoid restaurants along La Rambla as they are infamous for serving overpriced crap.

Also, avoid restaurants without menus, or those with menus but without a price on it.

It has also been reported that some restaurants give out expired coupons on the street.


What to do:

Do some online research or check with your hotel / hostel staff on recommended places locals go to eat at.

If researching is too much of a hassle, you can also consider joining a fun local food tour!



  • BonAppetour: join locals over a meal for an authentic food experience!
  • Your hotel / hostel affiliated tour operators: reliable but generally not the best or cheapest.

When at a restaurant / food establishment:

  • Check the menu carefully for prices and fine print at the start.
  • Do not eat what you did not order.
  • Check your bill carefully at the end.
  • Check your change.


11. Petition / survey scam

petition scam

Petition scam in action


How it works:

At crowded tourist places and street, you will probably see this scam, like in France.

You will be asked to sign a petition in a language you do not understand. On the form, you will see several other signatures which are there to make it seem more credible.

The petition simply means that you agree to donate a certain amount to a charity (for the deaf and blind). So once you sign, a donation will be demanded.

Sometimes, the scammer’s accomplices might even steal from you while you are distracted, so stay away from them.

Besides petitions, you might find some young faces asking if you can help with a school survey. The set-up is the same, once you are distracted, the accomplice will steal from you.


What to do:

Firmly reject and stay far away.

Ideally, arm yourself with a money belt or hidden pouch and an anti-theft bag to conceal your valuables securely.



1. Bus and train pickpockets


How it works:

Pickpockets love to target large, connecting metro stations as they can escape to other lines, as well as lines which tourists frequent.

  • Madrid:
    • Puerta del Sol and Nuevos Ministerios
  • Barcelona:
    • Metro lines L3 and L4
    • Bus 24
    • Metro stations connecting to tourist attractions: Placa Catalunya, Placa Espania, Passeig de Gracia, Jaume I.
    • Metro stations connecting to airport: Sants, Franca, Estacio del Nord, Cercanias.

They have various modus operandi:

  • Someone blocks you at the train’s doors or at the escalator by pretending to tie their shoe laces or pretend to drop something (e.g. phone, cigarette), and an accomplice will steal from behind.
  • Some of them time it perfectly such that they can snatch your stuff and jump out just before the doors close.
  • Other times, especially at escalators, they might trip you or bump into you. Next moment, your valuables are gone.


What to do:

Stay alert and watch out for suspicious characters, though that is easier said than done.

The best solution is still, to not make yourself look like a target. 

Make it impossible for thieves to steal from you with these methods:

  • Carry a photocopy of your passport instead of the actual one.
  • Keep your wallet in the front pocket.
  • Conceal small valuables in a money belt / hidden pouch.
  • Store large valuables in a slash-resistant and lockable anti-theft bag.
  • Leave most valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe, secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – our review) which covers loss of valuables.


2. The highway pirate scam


How it works:

These “highway pirates” target foreign registered cars and hired cars. The AP-7 Autopista south of Barcelona is reportedly a favourite hot spot.

What they do is that they stop you and claim that you have damaged their cars.

Or they claim to have noticed something wrong with your car such as a punctured tire.

Note that the punctured tire could be real, as the scammers would have targeted your car earlier and slashed your tires already.

Do not stop, because if you come out of your car to check on it, these “helpful strangers” will grab any valuables you leave in the the car.


What to do:

Do not stop if someone tries to flag you down. If anyone tails you, drive to a safe place where you can alert the authorities.

Ensure that your car doors are locked and windows are up.

Do not leave any valuables exposed in the car:


3. The trojan horse scam

trojan horse scam



How it works:

This is a much more recent scam. A thief hides in a luggage bag which is then deposited in the luggage storage area for long distance travel.

Once the coast is clear, the thief gets out and begins stealing valuables from surrounding bags.

When he is done, the thief hides back in the luggage bag again but now with his loot.


What to do:

To make it impossible for thieves to steal your bags, here are some steps you can take:

  • Keep your bag on your lap / beside you instead of in the under / overhead compartment.
  • Should you wish to take a nap, use a TSA lock / cable lock / cable ties to lock your bag and to lock the bag to yourself / your seat.
  • Or simply get a lockable anti-theft bag that comes with a mechanism to lock to yourself / your seat.
  • Hide small valuables in a money belt / hidden pouch.
  • Finally, get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – our review) to cover loss of bags / valuables within.


4. Overcharging taxis

Taxis in Barcelona

Taxis in Barcelona


How it works:

There have been cases where taxi drivers play with your unfamiliarity of the local currency.

For instance, you might have given him 50 euros, but he claims that you have only given him 5 euros.

Another kind of scam is where the taxi driver demands pre-payment. No matter how convincing he sounds, and he can sound very convincing, alarm bells should ring in your head.

This is an outright scam because halfway through the journey, he will stop, tell you that he cannot continue and return you a counterfeit bill.


What to do:

Before boarding the cab, take a photo of the car plate and also of the driver’s license in case anything goes wrong.

Next, never pay in full upfront.

When it is time to pay, count your bills out loud before handing them over and watch carefully if the driver uses any sleight of hand tricks.

If all these feel like too much of a hassle, you can still use the public transportation system (long distance Renfe train, metro, inter-city and intra-city buses) which is well developed, convenient and affordable.

Depending on where you are and your itinerary, it may be worthwhile to get the Hola BCN card (transport only, transport + discounts) or a hop-on hop-off bus (e.g. Barcelona, Madrid).



1. Fake hotel booking sites


How it works:

Thankfully, James, who acts as Professor Xavier in the X-men movies was able to use his mind-reading skills and avoid losing $13k in this scam.

Do be wary of these red flags:

  • Prices that are too good to be true.
  • Illogical descriptions because they copy and paste without any edits.
  • Dodgy sounding reviews.
  • Difference in photos provided and pictures seen with Google Street View.
  • Payment only by bank transfer off the booking platform (note: they will use names that include the original booking platform to make it seem like you are still dealing with the platform).
  • Or payment to a foreign bank account or via Western Union / MoneyGram (sure sign of a scam as transfers are irreversible).
  • Owner is overseas, insists on only using English in emails and emails are worded in poor English.
  • If the “owner” refuses to provide more details or to allow for a tour of the place.


What to do:

First, only book via legitimate accommodation platforms such as:

  • Direct: double check from other sources to make sure it’s the official site.
  • Booking.com: Frommer’s tests have found the site to offer the best selection and rates amongst competing sites most of the time.
  • Homestay: if you are up for gaining genuine insights of Spain by staying with a local host!

Next, some due diligence to be done on individual listings:

  • Search online reviews and Google the names of the owner.
  • Call the phone number provided on the listing.
  • Grill the “landlord” by asking specific questions, such as room dimensions or something unique as seen in the photos.
  • You can even pretend something exists in the online photos and test if the “landlord” can call your bluff.
  • Search if the property has another online presence or contact number and engage that to see if they are consistent.
  • Test the owner by requesting for a visit from a local friend – it doesn’t have to happen, you just want to test the owner’s receptiveness.
  • Finally, do not pay in full upfront and do not make payment off the platform.


2. Timeshare touts




How it works:

One of the biggest annoyances for visitors to Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria is timeshare touts.

These scammers often work in beach areas and will approach you claiming to be from the tourist board, saying that you have won a prize, or that they offer free boat / taxi trips to an exhibition (which does not exist!!).

To claim it you need to come to their office, but once you are there they will make you sit through a timeshare presentation.

They will often put a lot of pressure on you to sign up for a timeshare scheme which is often expensive and poor value for money.

Even if you manage to refuse you will still have wasted a lot of time with the scammers.

And as for the prize? Surprise surprise, it’s actually a “free” stay at one of the timeshare apartments that’s subject to many onerous terms and conditions!


What to do:

Never go to the office of someone you don’t know here.

This is especially true if they offer you an unsolicited prize first as this is usually a scam to lure you to a timeshare presentation.


3. Fake police scam

Triumphal Arch

Triumphal Arch


How it works:

You can find different variations of the fake police scam globally (e.g. Morocco, Malaysia, Poland).

In Spain, there are multiple variations too:

1. Counterfeit money accusation:

  • A man approaches you to ask for directions, thanks you, then leaves.
  • Next, fake police officers appear, claiming that the guy is known for spreading fake money and so have to check your wallet.
  • Should you hand it over, they either nick your cards, notes or simply run off with it.

2. Drug accusation

  • The fake police officers can also claim that the guy is known for peddling drugs and so have to check your bag.
  • Should you hand it over, they will grab your bag and run off.

3. Fake police car and police stations

  • There are scammers passing themselves off in a fake police car
  • Some fake police officers will even bring you to a fake police station and then fine you for a random offence.


What to do:

If you have not obviously broken the law, be very skeptical when a “police officer” approaches you.

Three steps to shake them off:

  • Verify badges and identification. Threaten to call the police hotline (end of this article).
  • Never give your passport if asked. Show only a photocopy of it.
  • If they want to fine you or check your bags, insist to only do so at a police station (use your GPS to find it or check with a local) with a lawyer or someone from your embassy.

Next, you should have hidden your valuables in a money belt or hidden pouch and use a cheap spare wallet with not much cash inside.

This way, the scammers may simply let you go since you do not seem to have much cash.


4. Counterfeit bill switcheroo




How it works:

You pass the cash to the waiter, he disappears and reappears again telling you that the note is counterfeit.

This basically means that you have to pay double, as he has swapped your real notes with fake ones plus you have to pay again.


What to do:

For larger bills, you can mark them with a pencil (though not always practical) or remember the serial number of the bill before handing over.

Also, try to ensure that the bill is counted in your line of sight. Or simply move over to the cashier and watch him count your bills carefully.


5. Bird shit / spilled liquid / stain scam




How it works:

This is similar to the one posted in Thailand and many other countries such as the US.

Someone will dump liquid / white stuff looks like bird poo, etc onto you.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a bunch of people will appear to help you clean the stain. In the process, your valuables will  “cleaned off” as well.

Another variation is where no liquid is poured.

The scammers will simply claim that your clothes have been stained and will help you clean up even if there are no visible stains.


What to do:

Stand your ground and push whoever tries to help away.

And as mentioned earlier, if you had secured your valuables in a money belt or hidden pouch and an anti-theft bag, you will be safe.


6. Map / asking for directions scam

Distraction theft

Distraction theft


How it works:

The scammer, usually well dressed to look like a tourist, will approach you to ask for directions.

He opens out a map over your valuables should they be laid out in the open, and grabs them together with the map.

This can happen at outdoor cafes or even inside restaurants where you might have left your valuables on the table.

Note that this map scam can be perpetrated in other ways as well!

While you walk across crowded streets, you find yourself “ganged up” by a group of people trying to sell you a map of the city. The map opens up and poof…


What to do:

Do not leave your valuables exposed in the open.

When someone approaches you with a map, raise your guard immediately.

Ideally, use a money belt or hidden pouch and an anti-theft bag to conceal your valuables securely.


7. Sob story / fake beggar

Beggar in Spain

Beggar in Spain


How it works:

The sob story beggar claims that he / she has been robbed and has no money for food or transport.

Another kind of fake beggar is more scheming. Normally perpetuated by a gypsy, she will sit harmlessly on the ground holding a cardboard sign asking for donations with an accomplice nearby.

Should you donate, the accomplice will now know where you keep your wallet and will wait until the right opportunity to steal from you arises.


What to do:

Stay away. If you want to help, donate to established charities instead.


8. The baby scam


How it works:

This is a scam that can also be found in Italy and one that catches people by surprise.

A person holding a baby might just thrust the baby into your arms. You know what happens next.

While you are distracted catching the baby, the scammer’s accomplice will steal from you.


What to do:

Stay alert and quickly push whoever comes near to you away.

Ideally, arm yourself with a money belt or hidden pouch and an anti-theft bag to conceal your valuables securely.


9. ATM Scam

Spotting a rigged ATM

Spotting a rigged ATM


How it works:

This scam happens everywhere globally (e.g. BrazilCanada). Generally, ATMs can be rigged in two ways.

First, the card skimmer and pinhole camera / keypad overlay set up:

  • A card skimmer is installed over the card slot to capture your card details.
  • The pinhole camera / keypad overlay is used to capture your PIN.

Second, the card trap:

  • The card slot can be rigged with cheap tools to trap your card.
  • When your card is stuck, someone will come over and tell you that if you retype your PIN, your card will be unblocked.
  • Obviously, your card will still be stuck, but the scammer will now have seen your PIN.
  • Should you head into the bank / somewhere to seek help, the scammer will unblock your card and escape.


What to do:

Avoid using ATMs at dark, secluded areas. Use only at controlled environments such as in banks.

Scan the area for suspicious looking characters, look out for red flags of a rigged ATM and cover your PIN when typing it in.


10. Bar scam

Pool party in Spain

Pool party in Spain


How it works:

If you were to visit as a single male tourist, you might find a young woman who sit next to you and ask for a drink.

Halfway through though, she will excuse herself to go to the toilet. At the end, you will be hit with an overpriced bill.


What to do:

Always check the menu prices and any fine print properly.

To be safe, reject advances from such a stranger as well.

However, if you wish to meet new people here, there are some popular pub crawls from GetYourGuide which you can also consider:





This is not a fear mongering exercise, as most visits are trouble free as long as you exercise some common sense.

However, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Information below has been compiled from:


1. Violent crime, hazards, hotspots, terrorism, civil unrest

Map of safe and unsafe regions of Spain.

Map of safe and unsafe regions in Spain. Source: smartraveller.gov.au


How it works:

A brief summary:

  • Violent crime: rare. Watch out for petty crime and scams instead.
  • Hazards: potentially, refugee camps (e.g. in San Roque).
  • Hotspots: drug entry points such as Galicia, La Línea de la Concepción, Costa del Sol.
  • Terrorism: Possibility of attacks, with the last being a vehicle driven into pedestrians on Las Ramblas in Barcelona in 2017.
  • Civil unrest: demonstrations may occur, especially in Catalonia.


What to do:

Stay alert, avoid secluded areas, travelling alone at night, and don’t look like an easy victim (e.g. looking like a tourist / flaunting valuables).

Monitor local media in case of any terrorist threats, and avoid participating in demonstrations.


2. Medical care

Hospital Ramón y Cajal

Hospital Ramón y Cajal in Madrid. Source: Wikimedia – Zaqarbal


How it works:

Standard of medical care is good in Spain.

Diseases to vaccinate against / watch out for include:

  • Insect borne diseases: Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, leishmaniasis, Lyme disease, West Nile virus.
  • Food and water borne diseases: travellers’ diarrhoea.
  • Animal borne diseases: rabies, measles.
  • Human borne diseases: HIV.


What to do:

If you can’t afford travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads – our review), you can’t afford to travel, as:

  • Emergency health services can cost a bomb.
  • Insurance providers can make complex logistical arrangements to get you the best medical treatment fast.

Vaccinations to consider:

  • All travellers: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, flu shot.
  • Some travellers: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, rabies (outdoor activities, activities involving bats).

Prevent insect bites:

  • Protective clothing.
  • Insect repellents.
  • Insecticide treated bed / cot nets.
  • Plug-in insecticides.
  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass.

Food safety:

  • Practise safe hygiene such as washing hands with soap.
  • Only drink bottled water or water that has been boiled.
  • Avoid unpasteurized dairy products, ice cubes, uncooked and undercooked food.


3. Natural disasters


How it works:

A brief summary:

  • Earthquakes: major ones are rare, though frequent seismic activity on Canary Island of El Hierro.
  • Rainy season: September to November, especially the Valencia region and Balearic Islands.
  • Forest fires: June to August, especially in rural areas.
  • Heavy snowfall: December to February, especially in the north.


What to do:

Effective preparation and prevention involves staying at the “right” place, travelling at the “right” time and getting travel insurance (e.g. World Nomadsour review) that covers natural disasters.

Check the latest media reports and weather forecasts.

Reacting to one:

  • Earthquakes: drop (to hands and knees), cover (head and neck with arms), hold on (to sturdy furniture); expect aftershocks
  • Forest fires: make yourself seen (e.g. spread out something large and bright), find shelter with little vegetation, stay low to avoid smoke.


4. Transport safety


How it works:

Road conditions safety and conditions vary throughout the country.

As for public transportation, it is generally excellent, as long as you watch out for petty crime.

A couple of factors to watch out for:

  • Traffic congestion in urban areas.
  • Aggressive driving and speeding.


What to do:

Before going out, check the latest media reports and weather forecast.

When on the road, stay alert, wear seatbelts, keep doors locked and windows up.



1. Emergency numbers to call

Police in Spain

Police in Spain. Source: sputniknews.com


  • Emergency: 112
  • Ambulance / health: 061 or 112
  • Fire: 080 or 112
  • Local police: 092
  • Tourist helpline: 902 102 112

Join the community!

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  1. Marc

    Wonderful tips especially if you go to Spain.I didn’t know that Spain got this bad with Scams. Its really good to know those tips which probably helps some tourists to travel with stress free. Thanks

    • Jimmy

      I got scammed by a Spanish prostitute who approached me while on foot walking around. She offered sex, but when I refused, she put her arms around me and poof, as quick as lighting she took my necklace off and I didn’t even know it was gone until later.

      • Admin

        Thanks for sharing Jimmy! But damn, sorry to hear that.. Hope karma makes up for it some way or another for you!

      • Ruben

        They do this as well by grabbing you testicles and then snatch your phone.

    • Menno

      Wherever there are Gypsies, there is theft. It got worse when Romania entered the Schengen zone, it opened the field to the whole of the EU adhering to the zone.

      • Weener

        What a stupid racist thing to say. Your remark is unfounded. Do you realize that Michael Caine, Charlie Chaplin, Elvis Presley, Pablo Picasso and many others are gypsies? Gypsies (people of Romani origin) can be Italian, Polish, Armenian, Bosnian, British, Bulgarian, Spanish, Czech, German, or whatever. Your remark is offensive to Romanian people and all people of Romani origin. It should not be on a reputable site.

        • Aj Alman

          Ah yes a handful compared to the lot of them,and most of them are mixed I think

  2. brain

    Another scam that they use at the airport is that they will hold you to the side, and then put you in a cab where they tell you that they’re not going to turn on the taxi meter, then overcharge you on a very short fair. The guys who separate people between taxies are complicit with this too.

    • Admin

      thanks for sharing!

    • Ilse Wouters

      Hello. I live in Spain and would like to specify something about this “scam” : in a lot of airports of Spain (Barcelona was the first to put this in place, followed by Madrid, Alicante…)there is a “minimum tariff” for taxi rides from the airport (really meant to discourage leaving your car at a short distance outside the airport parking zone, or minimising the “impact” of short rides for the taxi driver – who needs to queue a long time to get a ride and when it´s a short one paid little “looses” money), which means that short rides have become very expensive. Anyway, all official taxis in Spain have a taxi meter and you should always demand them to use it, even if the tariff later on doesn´t apply!

  3. Spock

    My friend and I experienced the bird shit scam last night. They work in groups! Great thing, they were not able to “help” us since my friend helped me clean the stuff from my back. They work in groups (in our case, we think there are three of them). So if something like this happens, just go on walking and moving do not worry about having some dirt on your clothes.

    • Admin

      Thanks for sharing Spock! lucky u 🙂

    • jacqueline boyd

      This happened to my husband and I in Seville. A green parakeet flew into a tree in a park and we had green liquid squirted on us. They helped clean it off with tissue and wet wipes. They seemed quite respectable people in their late forties. On returning to our cruise ship my husbands camera had been taken and 50 euros from his front pocket. We are in our seventies and feel they are evil scum. Fortunately I had my bag across my shoulders and if other people hadn’t been walking nearby I feel it could have been a lot worse. We were quite traumatised by the whole experience. I wish I had read your comments before we went on holiday. I think it would have been helpful if Tui our cruise agent could have warned us before we left.

  4. Mary Simons

    Hello, Everyone, I have travel around the Spanish Coast, I been in Almeria, there is such honest people! you don’t see these scams, I saw some of these in Barcelona, Alicante, Granada, and in Malaga; In Malaga, we went into a place that have a menu, we order 2 paellas and 2 drinks from the menu, the brought bread as usual, when we asked for the bill, I saw they charge for 5 items, I asked the waitress why they charged and she said that was for the bread, that we never order, and we though was complimentary, also there be careful with the taxis, the manipulate the taximeter, ask a fare before you take it. (they tend to change if they notice that you are tourist).

    • Admin

      Thanks for sharing Mary! Didn’t know that some cab drivers even manipulate the taximeter, thought it would be a more prevalent practice in Asia. As for the charging of bread, it is a pretty grey area in Europe, some places charge for it while others provide it free, probably good to ask at the start of a meal 🙂

    • Ilse Wouters

      Hello. I live in Spain and have travelled in many countries. I admit there is the “bread trick”, but normally it will say on the menu that a “cover charge” is charged per person for bread and a small aperitive (sometimes also includes olive oil, or “chupito” of degustive at the end of the meal). I don´t consider it a “scam” though. Likewise for the menu cards indicating the official tax rate of 10% is not included : it´s not very user friendly, but I guess that loads of restaurants ended up printing their menu cards that way when in a short period the tax rates were raised twice as to avoid having them reprinted again when another change would arrive. What might be a scam is when the waiter is telling you that you should leave a tip. I have witnessed it in Barcelona when having dinner with (foreign) friends and when my (Spanish) husband made a comment about it, the waiter of course couldn´t continue with his “trick” trying to get more money.
      Concerning the taxis : if you take an official taxi in Spain, you´ll always have a taxi meter and – normally indicated on stickers on the windows, in Spanish and in English – the official tariffs and the different zones and the extras. It´s easy to check whether the tariff is applied correctly. If you really feel the driver charges you more for being a tourist (which I really doubt), ask for his/her details and a complaint form. If you absolutely want to make sure no problem can occur, order your taxi through radio taxi, but be prepared to pay the extra for the taxi getting to where you want it to be.

  5. Bill

    We were sitting at an outdoor table having coffee. A guy acting as a mute was showing us a piece of paper with scribbles all over it and just pointing at it. he then left. That’s when we realized he lifted the cell phone from the table while it was blocked from our view behind the piece of paper.

    • Admin

      Thanks for sharing Bill! Quite a common scam this, could be anything such as a map or newspaper as well so do be wary.

  6. David nicholls

    While visiting a restaurant at the beach at St pedro alcantara yesterday the rear window of our hire car was smashed with a stone but not entered. A scruffy man in a high viz jacket greeted us and said if we had payed him this would not have happened.are the police aware of this and does anybody care.

  7. Bothered and Bewildered

    We returned from 5 nights in Barcelona yesterday, which was New Year’s Eve 2016. We have visited many cities in Europe and other continents, and so are fairly “streetwise”, but how I wish I had read about scams before going to Barcelona!!

    If you are visiting Spain you might like to search (Barcelona + scams) before travelling, or try this link:

    Very near La Diagonal at CARRER de MALLORCA number 334, we were turned over in such a clever way I want everyone to know about it. Apparently it is common enough to be known charmingly as the PIGEON POO SCAM.

    It was lunch time, fairly quiet and we had been highlighting our tourist status by taking photos and looking at the map. DO NOT DO THIS in Barcelona!

    Suddenly we found ourselves covered in a white liquid that we originally thought must have been a very large bird, or something thrown at us from a balcony, yogurt perhaps? Splattered all down our backs, and on my husband’s face, neck and hair.

    A well dressed man who had seemed to be locking an apartment block door came running over saying “let me help you, I will clean you”. He took us into the flats and up the stairs, where I remarked how dark it was!! Then he started handing us tissues and pouring water on them. Despite being shaken I did begin to wonder why he took us up so many floors if he wasn’t actually taking us to running water? While he was swabbing at the stains my husband realised this man was trying to get his wallet and warned me to be careful when the thief came to “help” me. I realise now he searched for a necklace, but he wasn’t very slick as he missed my gold earrings. Next he started working my bag around to my back and I thought, but that can’t be stained, it was UNDER my jacket. I spun around and checked inside my bag, hearing myself say, so politely, “excuse me I think you might have taken my purse?” He indicated it was on the doorstep beside me and started to dash away down the stairs.

    I’m certain he was seconds away from lifting our passports and cards, which were (deliberately,) in a separate zipped compartment with some paper money, both Sterling and Euros. He must have been annoyed as my phone was in yet another zipped compartment, and my camera attached to my wrist.

    Very shocked and shaken we found a police station to report the incident. A young officer was kind and attentive, but also clear…. this happens ALL THE TIME in Barcelona. It is the worst city in Europe for thieving and scams he told me, with what might have been some pride?? “Nothing taken so no real harm done, enjoy your days.”

    Thankfully we only lost our pride and confidence, and we have learned from the experience!
    Barcelona is an interesting and vibrant city. It is also smelly, dirty, and plastered in graffiti, which often says “Tourists GO HOME”.

    We will not be visiting Barcelona again.sad

    • Retired

      Just got back from Barcelona and was also a victim of the pigeon poo scam on Carrer de Mallorca nearly the same place. Amazing that they can’t post any police in that area. Lost my credit cards and didn’t realize it until two days later and $6,000.
      The city was interesting and exciting up to this point and now I only have regretful regards to people whom choose to visit this smelly, rude, dog-shitting everywhere city!

      • Jeannie


  8. Joanna

    Same here, been scammed in taxi, he just clicks and adds 10 euros keeps talking Spanish to, us, another scam is in one of them 24h supermarkets, last item is always very expensive and he claims there is no bar code on this item, that way we’ve paid 4 Euro for 4 small cans of sprite!!!! Very bad for European country!!!!!!!!!

  9. nina

    thank you for the article 🙂
    could you do an article how to avoid the scams too ?
    also places where in barcelone/madrid with less scams
    please 🙂

  10. Elena

    I spent five glorious weeks in Madrid and three weeks in Barcelona and ALMOST encountered some of the above mentioned scams. Fortunately, I read about the same scams (and more) ahead of time, so I was prepared by wearing my money belt EVERY SINGLE DAY and never had anything stolen. Always kept my purse in my lap at restaurants. I was so lucky to have been warned via numerous newsfeeds from so many other travelers that I learned from other people’s mistakes and felt prepared to enjoy my time while taking precautions.

  11. Tom

    It was around 6:30 am in the el born section. Me and 3 of my children were waiting with bags for my wife and daughter to come meet us . A woman, in English , started screaming in an alley that her purse was just stolen and her passport was gone and “help me, help me”. She wasn’t in any physical harm, so I wasn’t going to go help her. Anyway, I thought it was legit . It may very well have been. Later I was told by some folks that this is a common scam – meant to separate me from my bags. And I thought I read every scam out there. This one should be included. Helping someone that is a victim of a scam, may be a scam itself . Avoid them, they can go to the police, or, at least be vigilant if you do decide to help

  12. Craig Nz

    My lovely wife and I were in Córdoba having a great time but Gypsies managed to split us both and with two different plants we’re trying to read our palms… then asking for money!! Coins were not enough ! I was stronge enough to move on but by the time I was able to get to my wife much more had been taken! With 5 to 6 woman standing around her she felt handing the money over was the only way out!! Just be strong and from the start tell them to “F” off ! A Big Loud NO! Will do!!

  13. Moises Romo

    I just got hit by the fake police (working with the real police) in Madrid (Lavapies area). I was minding my own, walking down a less busy street. And a group of guys in their early 20s surrounded me saying that they’re police and they need to verify my identity. They were wearing colored shorts, t-shirts and regular street clothes. They showed me their badges and id’s. They wouldn’t let me go. One of them had a gun. I called the police a few times. Got hung up on by the impatient operator. I was calling help from passersbys but they didn’t want to be involved. I called the hostel that I was staying at and I think that must have made them decide not to rob me. I finally showed them my drivers license and they kept questioning same lame questions over and over. Then the police came. They opened up the back door and had me empty out my pockets. They ran through my wallet in front of me. I thought for sure I was leaving empty handed. I didn’t have my passport on me. I think the facts that I didn’t offer any bribe, started making phone calls, expressed distrust and prayed eventually they gave me everything and let me off. No money was missing. They had arrested a young black guy for apparently no reason and took him away. Unfortunately, I think they saw him as easier prey. He was just crying saying he didn’t do anything and didn’t need to be arrested. I’m sure he’s right.

    • Moises Romo

      By the way, it was 7:30 and still light out when this happened.

  14. Richard

    I nearly had my wallet and passport taken from a bumbag in Malaga last weekend. Three pickpockets working together. One young tall man and two stocky women. As I walked across the Puente Misericordia towards the central station he walked alongside me. When he didn’t pass I speeded up, and so did he. I then slowed down and it was then I felt hands on the zips of my bag. I shouted pick pockets and they made off. It was a very close call.

  15. Erica

    Daughter is studying abroad in Madrid. This week she has had both her credit card number stolen AND her phone lifted out of her small zipped cross body purse. Articles like this are great and remind all to be aware of your surroundings and not niave. Wish I had read this BEFORE all this happened to her.

  16. Bella

    Went to Madrid, Spain and Andalucia region, as well as Lisbon, Portugal. First night in Madrid the lobby of the hostel which was extremely hard to find in Sol was a haven for a trench coated pick up artist. He stashed all the stuff he stole inside of a plastic bin . I had to block him from entering because it was dark with no lighting in the lobby. My next experience was nearly getting pick-pocketed several times in the streets, airport and inside of the subway. The subway experience was the worst – a nigerian girl talked loudly in a bunch of nonsense with her guy standing behind her. Right before the distracting noises she put her hands into my pockets quickly and nothing. Stayed behind me in a lineup for getting subway tickets and wouldn’t let up. So I started yelling at them. They got startled and kept at it. I moved to another empty subway ticket booth and they left. The airport was horrendous. I stayed awake all night to protect my luggage. I saw a trench coat guy (from Cyprus? from somewhere middle eastern or eastern european is my guess with very fine bone structure and narrow faces light skinned and black straight fine hair). ONe had a slash across his face. Approached by one of them outside who asked for a smoke adn then asked where my accent was from – irssh? NOPE, big mistake beacuse he later approached me at the terminal booth with the airline lady looking on and tried to steal my passport in front of me. My reflexes were faster. One guy simultaneously (american or canadian white) was screaming and runnig after the other pickpocket. I screamed and yelled. The police were literally 25 steps away. They laughed. Pretending to walk around and look for the thieves and got back to donuts and coffee literally. I asked why they are so calm and don’t care. They said that the thief will be out of jail in the morning and back at the madrid airport doing the same thing over again – lost cause. I was so exhausted and angry. I literally stayed awake all night thinking my stuff would get stolen but no, my passport was also risky. When I got to Lisbon I breathed a sigh of relief! I only got approached by some young guys who somehow knew I was a tourist (no camera or backpack just a coat) and offered to sell me some weed I think? I got a bit scared. In another part (Seville) Spain I was surrounded by young guys trying to rush me because I walked with a blonde german from the hostel who was showing me around. They did that to her every other night.

  17. Simon

    Thanks for all this great info.
    I’ve travelled in many countries and am very streetwise. Though while in Barcelona my partner and I were at an outdoor street restaurant near La Sagrada Familia at 10pm. Totally empty street and a few folk at other tables. I had my shoulder bag at my feet and usually would have had it on my lap or tied to the chair – but as the street was completely empty and I’d see anyone approaching it seemed unnecessary. Our drinks arrived and the two Spainish waiters slammed them down on the table and roughly rearranged the menus and other stuff on the table to distract us. Moments later I realised my bag was gone. At the time I didn’t suspect the waiters as it seemed too risky an act for them to pull off, though in hindsight it was obvious it had to be them. My wallet was in the bag along with a few other personal items and the cards were tried at an atm within minutes – but they tried to take out 500€ and the banks froze the cards in response. I challenged the waiters and owner the next night and it was obviously them but they had the upper hand in numbers and aggression/violent nature and I valued keeping my teeth.
    So it’s not just the Eastern Europeans as you suggest in your film who are at it. Spainish waiters in good restaurants with trip advisor reputation are also helping themselves.

    • Pradeeban Kathiravelu

      Never trust a TripAdvisor rating. They can easily be faked. I know many restaurants who have fake 5* reviews with fake accounts. They are easy to spot.


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